Trump Issues Conscience Protection Rules for Health Care Workers

Trump Issues Conscience Protection Rules for Health Care Workers May 2, 2019
by Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia

From The New York Times: 

President Trump on Thursday announced an expanded “conscience rule” to protect health care workers who oppose abortion, sterilization, assisted suicide and other medical procedures on religious or moral grounds.

The rule establishes guidelines for punishing health care institutions with the loss of federal funds if they fail to respect the rights of such workers.

“Just today, we finalized new protections of conscience rights for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, teachers, students and faith-based charities,” Mr. Trump said in a Rose Garden event for the National Day of Prayer. “They’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.”

After the 440-page rule was released, some groups said they feared the provisions were overly broad and could imperil care for patients seeking reproductive health care. They also said it could lead to discrimination against gay or transgender patients and their children, and weaken public health efforts to expand childhood vaccinations.

…The president foreshadowed the new rule early in his term by signing a “free speech and religious liberty” executive order.

“People and organizations do not have to shed their religious beliefs simply to help others in health care,” said Roger Severino, the director at the H.H.S. office for civil rights. In a conference call with reporters, he noted a series of existing laws to provide protections to those who have religious objections to delivering certain types of care. “We are giving those laws life with this regulation.”

From the press release: 

This final rule replaces a 2011 rule that has proven inadequate, and ensures that HHS implements the full set of tools appropriate for enforcing the conscience protections passed by Congress.  These federal laws protect providers, individuals, and other health care entities from having to provide, participate in, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for, services such as abortion, sterilization, or assisted suicide.  It also includes conscience protections with respect to advance directives.

The final rule clarifies what covered entities need to do to comply with applicable conscience provisions and requires applicants for HHS federal financial assistance to provide assurances and certifications of compliance. The rule also specifies compliance obligations for covered entities, including cooperation with OCR, maintenance of records, reporting, and non-retaliation requirements.


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